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'Green cards' get a high-tech makeover

New design makes the permanent resident cards harder to fake

POSTED: May 31, 2010 11:15 p.m.
/For The Times

The newly designed permanent resident card, or green card, features special ink and an embedded radio frequency for identification.

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The manufacture of fake identity cards for illegal immigrants is big business, but it just got a lot tougher.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this month is phasing in a redesigned permanent resident card, commonly known as the “green card,” with a host of security features to prevent counterfeiting.

In Gainesville, home to a significant number of illegal immigrants, local authorities have come across counterfeit work IDs, social security cards and the occasional fake green card.

Lt. Scott Ware, commander of the Gainesville/Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, said the cards usually are found while carrying out searches in unrelated investigations. He recalled one sting operation where a counterfeiter met an informant at a Gainesville shopping center, put a towel up behind the person as a backdrop, and snapped a picture for the fake ID.

“We came back a few days later and recovered the fraudulent IDs,” Ware said.

But with the new changes, green cards may be harder to counterfeit than money.

Special ink creates color shifts in visual designs, replacing the photo has become harder with a tamper-resistant border, and micro-images on the back feature high-resolution pictures of state flags and U.S. presidents. The high-tech cards even include an embedded radio frequency identification device.

“It’s a much more sophisticated, secure document,” said Ana Santiago, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “It’s much more difficult to forge or to tamper with.”

Santiago noted the new card also protects legitimate green card holders from identity theft. Many altered green cards are stolen.

“We’re able to deter fraud much more,” she said.

The redesigned cards are replacing the old cards as they expire. Permanent resident cards are good for three years or 10 years, depending on the applicant.

And unlike recent versions, these cards actually are green.

“At some point the color changed, but now we’re back to green,” Santiago said.


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